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Teachers, Don't Ditch Social Media: Helpful Tips and A Parent's Perspective

April 08, 2019 - 4 minute read

A persons hand holding a phone

There is a divided stance between teachers when it comes to social media. Some teachers choose to avoid it altogether, while other teachers use it to connect with family, friends and former students. Social media is a taboo subject that seems to surface in a negative light.

Teachers are being fired and careers are being destroyed over a single post on a social media website. My guess is that the post wasn’t done out of malice. In fact, it was probably done out of ignorance. I assume that these teachers never would have guessed their social media post would get them in trouble. Yet, the consequence remained the same.

The quick solution to the problem of teachers getting fired over social media is if you are an educator, do not post anything on social media that might be construed as inappropriate, controversial, or potentially offensive. Another brass solution is as an educator, you shouldn’t have a social media presence at all. I think both of these options are not realistic expectations. With the move to a more digital world, it is unrealistic to expect every teacher, administrator, or educational staff member to completely remove themselves from social media.

A teacher’s personal experience with social media can be useful in relating to students. We cannot ban social media from the classrooms, because students have access to social media outside of the classroom. Their interactions with social media will impact their behaviors and reactions to certain things in the classroom. It would be a disservice to students to ignore the social media world. Instead, I propose the idea of modeling best practices for social media use.

Best Practices for Social Media Use:

We are living in a world that is becoming heavily impacted by the social media world, and the reality is that once something is published, it is out there for the world to see, whether your profile is private or not, and whether you delete it or not. Once you hit post, it is permanently published. Instead of shutting out the digital world, teachers are in a unique position. They have the ability to influence their students by modeling positive online behaviors.

  • Be aware of your school’s or district’s policies regarding social media - Your school district or school may prohibit you from being friends with students or parents. They may also have guidelines on what you are allowed to post. Teachers have been fired over alcohol in pictures, inappropriate dress code, sharing a story about students both positive and negative.
  • Pause before you post - Always, no matter where life takes you, think about what you are posting before you post it. Social media is often used as a diary. Most people will say things online that they would never say to a person face-to-face. Think about why you are posting it. Is it to gain attention? Is it to prove a point? Is it to hurt someone? Is it to vent? Is it because you are hurt, frustrated, annoyed, or angry?
  • Think about the reactions - Once you hit post, your post will be published. Even if you have the most private social media account in the world, your post could become public—someone you never intended to see your post may actually see it. You might decide to take it down, but if someone took a screenshot, and decided to share it, you have no way of knowing who might see what you posted.
  • Collaboration instead of competition - We all know someone on social media who enjoys arguing for the sake of stirring things up. He or she likes to argue just to make others frustrated. Stay out of it. Do not join heated debates on social media - not with a stranger, not with your uncle, not with your friend. Getting into competition of any sort on social media usually breeds a sense of defiance and competition; often times people end up saying something they may regret due to the fact that their emotions were high.

A Parent’s Perspective:

As a parent, I want to remind you that you have the ability to impact your students’ lives. You have the power to alter their course and change where they are headed. You will make a difference in the lives of students - whether you choose to practice healthy social media behaviors or not, your social media presence will make an impact. Your students, their parents, and even alumni will eventually find you on some form of social media - when they do, think about what they will see. Think about the impact each post (or repost) will have.

You have been given the responsibility to educate, to raise up the next generation, and that is seriously one of the coolest responsibilities in the entire world! I admire my daughter’s teachers because I can see how they have impacted her life. I can see how much she learns from them and how they are helping me shape her into a wonderful, kind human being. My admiration for teachers is huge because you do a job I know that I cannot do. But don’t think for a second, that I don’t FBI-style investigate each teacher my daughter has. Believe me, I dig.

My heart goes out to the teachers who were good-willed in their posts, but got reprimanded for something that could have been avoided. Most will say that they never meant for anyone to get hurt or that they did not think before posting. In order to prevent this from happening to other teachers, a dialog needs to be had between teachers, parents and their schools to talk about what is expected from the teacher. Trainings could take place that encourage the best social media practices to be used. What are some practices that you find helpful for navigating social media? What conversations could be had in your school to help equip teachers as they post?

Mariah Lucas is an academic advisor for the Masters of Arts in Education and the Masters of Education at Concordia University Irvine. Mariah has her Masters of Science in Psychology with an emphasis in Life Coaching. Mariah is an alumni of Concordia University Irvine and graduated in 2015. In addition to her work at Concordia University Irvine, Mariah is the author of a motherhood and lifestyle blog. Mariah is passionate about empowering others to serve Christ and to pursue their dreams. Mariah can be reached at [email protected].

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